I am so excited to be taking part in the 2016 #ValentinesRewind blog hop with over 20 fabulous romance writers! (It's my first blog hop, you guys!) What an honor to be amongst such talented authors! Although we're talking about turning back the clocks and rewinding stories to revisit some of our favorite characters, I'm thrilled to get the chance to introduce my characters to the world, for the very first time! (eeeek!) Let me introduce you to Uma and Ivan. They walk the pages of the very first book in the Blank Canvas series, coming from Sourcebooks Casablanca in January 2017.
In this first book in the series, Uma comes to a small Virginia town to hide from her abusive ex. When she meets her new neighbor, Ivan, she knows she should be scared--he's a big, rough ex-con who fights, fucks and pounds metal to keep his rage at bay. Yet somehow, despite her past and his dark exterior, Ivan manages to get under Uma's skin and possibly even into her heart.
Here's an itty bitty excerpt:
He was beautiful.
Still big, still intimidating, but half-naked and sleepy, Ivan looked soft, approachable. His groggy face was hard to read, one squinty eye open, the other crinkled shut.
“Hey Uma. What you doin’?” His voice was beyond gravelly, into some deeper key that wouldn’t have been audible more than a couple feet away.
“I came to see you.”
“You weren’t here earlier.”
“Got a standin’ date Saturday night—with my nephew.”
“Oh.” That was a relief. All that jealousy for nothing. “Can I come in?”
It was almost insulting how long it took him to decide, but he eventually turned and preceded her into the room, pulling up the form-fitting boxer-briefs that had ridden low on his haunches. Squeak, asleep in front of the low-burning fire, barely lifted her head in acknowledgment of the new arrival.
It smelled different tonight. No longer a workshop, it had that slightly musky sleeping man scent. The one you don’t notice when you wake up to it, but have to air out if you re-enter a bedroom. It softened the usual fire and brimstone of the place.
Uma’s eyes scanned his shadowed shape and the word Voyeur popped into her head. Rory was right. It made complete sense. She’d always spent so much time with people who had to be the center of attention—Mom, growing up, then all those drama department friends in school, whose friendships hadn’t withstood Joey, and then Joey, himself—a man who craved the spotlight. It was a rare moment of insight, to realize what a parasitic relationship she’d had with those people. With all of them. No, not parasitic, symbiotic. They’d craved the attention and she’d thrived off of giving it to them.
This man, self-sufficient to the extreme, didn’t want anything from her. Or at least nothing complicated.
“You need a bed to crash?”
“Did you mean it when you said you’d do whatever I wanted you to do?”
A brief hesitation, then a slightly breathless, “Yeah.”
“You went to prison.”
He tensed up, but didn’t deny it.
“Why? What’d you do?”
“Beat someone up.”
“Had my reasons.”
“Were they good? Your reasons?”
“Thought so at the time.” In the middle of the room, he looked away, then turned back to her, rubbed a hand over his eyes and spoke wearily, “What can I do for you, Uma?”
Something came over her then. That inner voyeur, once identified, had taken on a life of its own. Here, with a half-naked Ivan, its pull was strong, deep in her bones.
I want to see you, it demanded.
She wondered what it would take to get him to pull his underwear off.
“Take off your shorts.”
Uma thought the words and then they were out, charging the air between them. Positively zipping with energy. A barometer in that room would have swung wildly in both directions, unsure whether to settle on Stormy or Electric. Either would have suited her just fine.
She was fierce, wide awake, as she watched first surprise, then awareness overtake Ivan’s features. His chest rose and fell, the sounds coming from him grown harsh.
He was measuring her, she could tell, trying to figure her out. She saw the exact moment he decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed Uma & Ivan's first foray into the world! The next stop on the hop is the amazingly talented Zoe York. If you need to catch up on the other posts, visit Tamsen's Blog for the full run-down! Don't forget to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end and comment below for a chance at a $15 Amazon giftcard. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind!